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Evoking Tales in a Medieval Ceiling: Sulayman’s / Solomon’s Birds in the Capella Palatina of Palermo

Evoking Tales in a Medieval Ceiling: Sulayman’s / Solomon’s Birds in the Capella Palatina of Palermo

Paper given by Lev Arie Kapitaikin

Delivered at Bard College, New York, on 14 October 2016

In the twelfth century, new powers emerged throughout the Western Mediterranean, from the Almohads of North Africa to the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. In the Iberian Peninsula, upstart rulers with broad ambitions emerged in both Muslim and Christian territories. New city-states appeared with the dissolution of the Almoravid Empire in al-Andalus, and older kingdoms, including Castile-Leon and Aragon, began massive expansions under rulers who claimed imperial titles.

This symposium explores how the rulers of this region deployed art (conceived in the broadest sense) to legitimate new claims, how they asserted their authority through the construction of palatial and liturgical spaces, and what kinds of objects their kingdoms produced, traded, or coveted. Talks will investigate how these rulers looked to imperial and caliphal precedents and rivals for models, how they elaborated on these models, and which communities of artisans and workmen they drew from. By bringing together scholars who work on the component kingdoms of this region, this symposium seeks to clarify the connections among them, crossing the geographic, ethnic, and religious lines imposed by modern scholarship. In doing so, it aims to develop new models for understanding the imbricated world of the medieval Western Mediterranean.

Lev Arie Kapitaikin received his PhD from Oxford University and now lectures at Tel Aviv University on Islamic and Byzantine arts focusing on the Muslim-Christian visual exchange in the Mediterranean.

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